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Train to Busan (2016): A Review

A workaholic father and his neglected daughter. An expecting husband and wife. Two elderly sisters. A pompous CEO. A crazy homeless man. A high school baseball team.

It’s quite the mix of characters. Shake them up, throw them into a train, and add a whole slew of fast-moving zombies and you’ve got South Korea’s massive hit Train to Busan.

Finally hitting US shores after breaking attendance records in its native country, Train to Busan is a strong live-action debut for director Yeon Sang-ho, best known for creating dramatic animated films in his home country.

Taking notes from World War Z and Snowpiercer, Train to Busan is a rather straightforward if melodramatic flick. We load our characters on a train, toss in some zombies (of the viral version, thank you very much), and allow the different stereotypes to play out in such a way to allow for some social commentary.

The bummer is that the characters are just that – stereotypes. They’re well played, but no one is playing anything you haven’t seen before. I wished that the movie allowed for a greater descent into violent insanity, or unabashed goofiness. Instead, it plays the whole thing straight and narrow.

What does standout, however, is the keen eye Yeon Sang-ho has for clean, smooth action direction, taking the typically frantic world of zombie films and keeping the focus clear and the camera steady. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention how incredibly lovely the cinematography is, especially for a zombie film, where the focus usually remains on how grimy to make everything.

Train to Busan is a fun journey to take, especially if you’re craving for some theatrical zombie goodness, but by no means is it an essential piece of Asian cinema. Worth a rental, or a fun group watch with your pals.

Train to Busan is available on VOD now, via Amazon and iTunes.